Southbourne Rubber Co

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Southbourne Rubber Co's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Southbourne Rubber Co is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Managing Director StephenWilde
Southbourne Rubber factory
floor, April 2019
Founded in the eponymous small village between West
Sussex and Hampshire, Southbourne Rubber has been a
player in the industrial rubber manufacturing sector for
almost 50 years. It supplies precision and industrial rubber
products to clients including Global and British Aerospace,
the Ministry of Defence and the Royal Navy Dockyards. SBR
Managing Director Stephen Wilde says that the firm’s state-
of-the-art machinery and skilled, friendly staff have been
instrumental to its continued success, and discusses its sustained
commitment to quality and consistency.
In 1995, we moved to our current premises in Waterlooville, Hampshire and in
2016 we were bought out to form part of The West Group Ltd. We have continued
to develop since that time and today we are a leading British manufacturer of
precision aerospace rubber mouldings.
We are at the forefront of rubber and silicone technology, supported by our
commitment to quality with regard to both products and customer service, for
which we have developed a strong reputation. We are proud of our decades of
experience in supplying a range of products including grommets, gaskets, O-rings
and bellows to the very best of the aerospace, defence, industrial, commercial and
transport industries.
Since 2016, I have headed up our team, supported by my background in electronic
engineering and IT and over eight years’ experience in business management and
technical materials.
»Managing Director:
»Established in 1970
»Based in Waterlooville,
»Services: UK manufacturer
of precision aerospace
rubber mouldings, O-rings,
grommets, bondings, washers,
seals, gaskets and sheeting to
»No. of employees: 14
Southbourne Rubber
Highlighting best practice
Joining our family at the same time as
our new parents The West Group took
over, I was tasked with either shutting
the business down or creating a five-
year business plan to present to the
board in my first six months.
On top of all the usual business
ideas for stabilisation, growth and
expansion, I suggested the use of
the knowledge, experience and
accreditation leverage they already
possessed to make an exciting
further incursion into the global
As well as managing the workforce
on a day-to-day basis and reporting
to shareholders, I am involved with
running all aspects of the company
from sales, marketing and analysis to
production techniques, materials, work
patterns and quality control.
Since joining the SBR family, my main
objective has been to ensure the
business has direction, focus, energy
and a bright future.
A commitment to quality
We are committed to quality and
as such, we are approved to the
aerospace standard AS9100D
and are also ISO 9001 certified, a
recognition of international quality.
This means that we meet and exceed
our customers’ expectations for the
implementation of a formal quality
management system.
SBR is an approved supplier to the
following companies: BAE Systems,
Airbus, Boeing, GKN, GE Aerospace,
Thales, Fokker GKN, Magnox Limited,
Babcock International, Bombardier,
Leonardo, Ultra Electronics, QinetiQ,
Meggitt and Raytheon UK.
We are approved to work with these
companies, which includes continual
compliance with their individual
quality requirements, and this allows
us to contribute to the supply chain
that serves them directly. Within
this, we can provide a Certificate
of Conformity, a document that
shows that our products meet each
company’s required specifications
and Raw Materials Certification,
which confirms that the materials
used for our products have been
tested and comply with each
Presenting rubber
innovation to Boeing
at their Everett facility
in Seattle, Washington,
September 2019
Since joining
the SBR
family, my
main objective
has been to
ensure the
business has
focus, energy
and a bright
Nurturing the next generation
In 2016, we changed hands as the
existing long-term owners retired,
leaving a workforce of seven people
on a three-day week with falling
sales. With minimal investment over
the last 30 years, the business was
in very poor health. I was asked to
establish whether the business could
be considered for modernisation or
to find the best way to close it down.
With the exit of the previous owners,
over 70 years of knowledge and
experience left the business. It was on
a knifeedge.
However, the more I investigated
the business, the more I became
surprised and impressed with the key
business baseline. We had multiple
accreditations, as listed previously, and
customer feedback was consistently
good: “Your quality is very good and
you always deliver on time” was the
standard feedback.
I set about building a five-year business
plan and asked for key investment in
new equipment. Vital to achieving this
was an EU grant, which contributed
20 per cent of the cost towards new
equipment from Solent Local Enterprise
Partnership. If or when the UK leaves
the EU, the government must keep
this type of grant funding available for
SMEs. We have shown that with a small
amount of help, both jobs and people’s
futures can be created and secured.
In three years, we have grown by over
50 per cent year on year and have
taken on seven additional personnel,
including two apprentices. One of
these has already been taken on full
time and shortlisted for the West of
England Aerospace Forum apprentice
of the year in 2018. The other has
just completed a level 3 course in
It is key for our future that these young
people absorb both the knowledge
and experience of their elders before
it too is lost. The loss of knowledge
was a significant business risk that is
now diminishing. The government’s
apprenticeship schemes need to be
simple, transparent and accessible and
I see these progressive apprenticeships
as an excellent way to train and add
the required youth element into any
business to ensure longevity. There
really is nothing quite like a young
mind with no fear and no perceived
business boundaries for creating
new work patterns and pushing a
One of the highest costs to
manufacturing in the UK is labour.
Many people, especially younger ones,
seem to be put off by “hands on”
manufacturing. This leaves us with
little choice but to take on Eastern
Europeans who are skilled and prolific
at multiple types of work. We have
taken on a number of such workers
in addition to our 14 full-time staff.
Without these people, and our access
to them, we would find it hard to
deliver the output and quality we
require. In order for sectors like ours
to flourish, access to a workforce
that is both skilled and hardworking
must be maintained, supported by the
nurturing of the next generation, both
contributing to form the backbone of
the company’s future.
We have
shown that
with a small
amount of
help, both
jobs and
futures can be
created and
Southbourne Rubber
factory floor, April 2016

This article was sponsored by Southbourne Rubber Co. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss

Even by the standards of the day –this has been one of the most exciting and unpredictable years in British politics.

The leadership election we’ve just seen marks a huge moment in our country’s history. This government is taking a decisive new direction, embracing the opportunities of Brexit and preparing our country to flourish outside the EU.

As international trade secretary, I’ll be driving forward work on the free trade agreements that are going to be a priority for the government. Free trade isn’t just an abstract concept bandied around by technocrats. It is crucial for a strong economy and for the ability of families to make ends meet. Free trade benefits people in every part of our country, as British firms export to new markets and people doing the weekly shop have access to a wider choice of goods at lower prices.

The essence of free trade is in the title: freedom. It’s about giving people the power to exchange their goods without heavy government taxation or interference. Commerce and free exchange are the engine room of prosperity and social mobility. I’m determined to tackle the forces who want to hold that back.

One of my priorities is agreeing an exciting new free trade deal with the US, building on the great relationship between our two countries and the Prime Minister and US President. But I’ll also be talking to other partners including New Zealand, Australia and fast-growing Asian markets.

And with the EU too, we want a friendly and constructive relationship, as constitutional equals, and as friends and partners in facing the challenges that lie ahead – a relationship based on a deep free trade agreement. Our country produces some of the world’s most successful exports, and the opportunity to bring these to the rest of the world should make us all excited about the future. It is this excitement, optimism and ambition which I believe will come to define this government.

For too long now, we have been told Britain isn’t big or important enough to survive outside the EU – that we have to accept a deal that reflects our reduced circumstances. I say that’s rubbish. With the right policies in place, we can be the most competitive, free-thinking, prosperous nation on Earth exporting to the world and leading in new developments like AI. To do that, we’ll give the brilliant next generation of entrepreneurs the tools they need to succeed. Since 2015, there has been a staggering 85 per cent rise in the number of businesses set up by 18 to 24 year olds – twice the level set up by the same age group in France and Germany. We’ll help them flourish by championing enterprise, cutting taxes and making regulation flexible and responsive to their needs.

As we do that, we’ll level up and unite all parts of the UK with great transport links, fibre broadband in every home and proper school funding, so everyone shares in our country’s success.

2019 has been the year of brewing economic and political revolution. 2020 will be the year when a revitalised Conservative government turbo charges the economy, boosts prospects for people across the country, and catapults Britain back to the forefront of the world stage.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss
Secretary of State for International Development